Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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John Hutch 08-31-2009 12:19 AM

Flourescent or Regular bulbs
Hi All,

I really need some help with making a decision. I have 4 tanks currently and live plants in all of them.
The plants do well in all my tanks but the funny thing is my 12 gallon Eclipse Bio Wheel tank has the most success with the plants in color and growth. It has a flourescent bulb in it. My 20 tall and long tanks have 15 and 17 watt aquarium lamps as light and the 28 gallon bowfront tank has a bulb that says Aquarium Natural Light on it.

I also read that Full Spectrum Flourscent Bulbs are the best.. Some one please narrow down what I should have in these tanks.

Thank U

Mikaila31 08-31-2009 12:35 AM

A fluorescent light will work better than an incandescent if that is what you mean by "regular bulbs". Full spectrum IMO is a vague term, but fluorescents with a Kelvin temp of 5,000-10,000 work best for plants. This number is usually given on the bulb or the bulb packaging, like 6,500K. Lights within this range are more suitable for plants than other flourescents.

If you do have incandescent lights, I suggest replacing them with 13/14 watt spiral compact flourescents. It may take a little hunting to find one in the right range. Best thing I could do was a 5,500K from Home Depot.

Byron 08-31-2009 01:26 PM

Hi John,

I am with Mikaila31 on this and will just expand a bit from my persnal experience. Fluorescent is definitely better; there is less heat, more intense light (depending upon the type of tube) and less operating cost (energy). And it is easier to provide the best spectrum. Also, fluorescent tubes extend the length of the tank so the light is dispersed much better.

As Mikaila said, "full spectrum" can be several things, depending upon the colour emphasis of the particular tube. The sun at mid-day is approximately 6500K and full spectrum is the closest to this. However, the emphasis within that spectrum on certain colours makes a difference. Plants require light that is mostly in the blue colour, and then red. They cannot use green and reflect it off their leaves, which is why plants appear green. Blue also, fortunately, penetrates water better (water slows down light penetration much more than air). This is why many of the so-called "plant' lights make the aquarium look purplish; they are highest in the blue and red with little else. Full spectrum includes the green/yellow range as well to balance. This provides what the plants need (blue and red0 but balances it with green to make the plants and fish appear natural to us.

Different "full spectrum" tubes will have slightly different colour renditions depending upon the emphasis of colour by the manuracturer. Tubes all with a 6700K rating for instance can appear slightly different over an aquarium because of this. When looking at tubes, always check the spectrum graph; most print it on the package, and you can see them online. DrsFoster&Smith site is very good for providing the spectrum graph for (I think) all of the tubes they list. Here's a link if you're interested: Fish Supplies: Fish Tank & Fish Care | Just select "Lighting" on the left, then fluorescent etc. Very useful information to compare.

When you have two (or more) tubes over an aquarium, you can mix tubes which allows you to highlight blue or red a bit without turning the tank garish or purple. I personally like two mixes: one is a Life-Glo 2 full spectrum 6700K with a Lightning Rod Ultra Daylight 11,000K on my 115g (slight increase in blue with the 11,000K [higher K number is more blue, lower number more red]), and on my 90g a Life-Glo 2 plus a Zoo Med Tropic Sun 5500K (slightly more red). Red gives a warmer tone, blue a cooler, but the 6700K balances it, at least for me.

Hope this helps a bit.


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